Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Pastoral Problems

I don't know if this is the type of situation Pope Francis was trying to deal with in his recent telephone call, but this kind of situation is not unusual - this is a made up.

Mary has been living Sam for 14 years, he is divorced, they have three children. Mary has been assiduous in the formation of her children in the faith, she tells her priest that she desperately wants to receive Holy Communion. the priest reminds her what Jesus says about someone married to a divorcee is committing adultery. 
Mary says she accepts Jesus' teaching and that Sam, despite only being a nominal Christian, because of his love for her respects her and has agreed to try and live as brother and sister.
Mary despite her love for Sam is well aware of the sinfulness of her situation and has even considered leaving Sam but that would deprive their children of a father, but she too loves him. They do live as brother and sister most of the time but every so often Sam and Mary fall, often it is Sam's fault but not always.

May Mary go the Holy Communion, possibly in a Church where she is completely unknown, even occasionally?

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Phlegm Flecked Voice from the Past

I had the following from a priest who taught liturgy when I was a seminarian at Wonersh over three decades ago, I hadn't had any contact with him since, in fact I thought he left the priesthood, it is pretty obvious he has little to do with Christianity but that was always apparent. I apologise for the bad language. I have removed references to third parties and do not give his surname.

I think I was the only student who did him the courtesy of  keeping awake during his interminable contentless lectures. He was one of those sad individuals who had a succession of curacies which never quite worked out. He was a curate in my home parish for a few months, I remember the then Parish Priest complaining about his lack of pastoral zeal, finally the bishop sent him off to do a short course in liturgy at Notre Dame in the US, he then returned to teach Liturgy at the seminary. He must have been the only priest to have done so who appeared never to have read Sacrosanctum Concillium, he stayed for a couple of years, was hardly a success at that, he was dismissed following complaints from students. For a few years he was on the fringe of the liberal liturgy circuit, I think in the Portsmouth diocese and then dropped off the radar. In those days priests who couldn't cope with parish life often ended up teaching in seminaries.

I am publishing this, I hope not out of malice but because of his  threats, I hate bullies, especially clerical ones and partly because I think it is illustrative of a certain illiberal 'liberal' attitude prevalent in the Church three decades ago and is now having a resurgence, with the same, now old, men and women. I occasionally get comments or anonymous letters in a similar vein when I mention  ACTA, which rather than even being an ad hominen attack is just a spew of phlegm flecked invective rather than engaging in any argument about the propositions put forward.

I assure you that he is has nothing to do with anyone teaching liturgy or anything else at St John's Seminary, Wonersh now. Today it has staff who are far more carefully selected than they were in the past, they are expected to be men of prayer and faith, with a strong priestly identity, who have something worthwhile to offer those being formed them. This, as you can see was not always the case.

Keep this priest in you prayers.
You were a dumb idiot as a student at Wonersh - omniscient as typifies a convert  - always loving liturgy that was hooked in the past. glad I am consistent! Your pathetic blog is a disgrace and so are you. I have today asked X to terminate your moronic postings and your constant critical comments about Pope Francis. I thought I was rather supportive of the Holy Father, if at times mystified. You are an idiot, pathetically uninformed and with the mind of an amoeba. It might be better to shut up because the entire world regards you as an ignorant ass-hole. Ray Blake - you know shit-all about anything - you were a half-wit thirty years ago, and remain the same.
Instead of wasting hours on your shit blog it doesn't take that long  - why not engage on REAL pastoral work. nor does it detract from my work in the parish
Your moronic critique of 'liberals' is paper thin - the Conservatives have had the upper hand for the last 30 years - what did these morons achieve?Child abuse and cover up, a totally dysfunctional Curia with infighting, a desire to preserve the reputation of the Church versus Justice, Bishops who were living as despots. This is what I occasionally complain about, we have something in common!
I have asked X to close down your comic site - you are a total disgrace to the PRIESTHOOD.
Some one needs to tell you that you are an ignorant ass-hole -you always were, you always will be!                Fr John X

I hadn't realised even as a seminarian I had created a lifelong enemy, I suspect it might have resulted from asking this priest if he had actually bothered to read the documents of the Council he posed to be an expert on.

Unlike Pope Benedict he is definitely from the terrorist school of liturgy.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Conversations in Rome

Around those little restaurants and bars, in those hotels and guest houses throughout Rome huge numbers of bishops and priests have gathered in Rome, now there is not much attraction in a canonisation amongst wet liberals, especially of an old triumphalist camaura wearing Pope who got the majority of bishops of the world to witness the signing of Veterum Sapientia (On the Promotion of the Study of Latin) and that Polish one who was pretty bad, who heralded, the other one, they won't even name.

I suspect the main subject of conversation won't be Francis' sainted predecessors but Francis himself and the direction in which he is taking the Church. Perhaps Francis isn't too sensitive to it but I suspect a large number of bishops are well aware of how fragile the Church is in Europe, North America, Asia, Oceania and Africa, even in parts of South America. The wounds of post-Concilliar confusion, poor leadership, of the abuse scandal, of the resignation of Pope Benedict, the drastic U-turn from Ratzinger's moral and theological absolutes to Bergoglio's moral subjectivism is inflicting severe damage on the Church and moving her back to a time of introspection, doubt and uncertainty, rather than giving her the courage to go out into the world to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ, which was of course the real purpose of the Second Vatican Council. The coming Synod, rather than opening up new vistas for the Church threatens to tear her apart and the Pope's apparent personal encouragement of dissent is causing difficulties many bishops and pastors aback home. Obviously the problem is not Francis but the way the media deal with him.

Tomorrow there is another meeting of the Council of Eight, in the light of the Jacqui Lisbona telephone call, and the concern it has raised, it will be unlikely for the Pope not to be confronted with some serious question about his personal style, or so I am told.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Visit of Bishop Athanasius Schneider

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, author of Dominus Est, is in England this May, below is his programme, he is a truly inspiring Bishop and well worth making the effort to go to meet and listen to.

I would draw the attention of clergy in particular to his talk on Wednesday evening at St Patrick's in Soho when he speak on "The Priest:: Image and Instrument of Christ". This talk is organised by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy - contact Fr Richard Whinder if you intend to come. I suspect many of us need a bit of nourishment at some clerical company during this Easter season.

Bishop Schneider's schedule during his stay in England
Friday 16 May: arrival in England.
Saturday 17 May: LMS Pilgrimage to West Grinstead in Sussex. Pontifical High Mass at 12noon, followed by lunch, spiritual conference and devotions. Our Lady of Consolation, Park Lane, West Grinstead RH13 8LT.
Sunday 18 May: Pontifical Low Mass with the Fraternity of St Peter in Reading, 11am. At the Church of St William of York, Upper Redlands Road,  Reading RG1 3HW.
Tuesday 20 May: address to The Newman Society: the Oxford University Catholic Society. 'Catholicism in Russia: the Experience of the 20th Century.' Talk from 8.00-9.15pm. Open to members of Oxford University and their guests. At the Catholic Chaplaincy, The Old Bishop's Palace, Rose Place, St Aldates, Oxford OX1 1RD.
Wednesday 21 May: Address to the Conference of Catholic Clergy at 6pm, St Patrick’s, Soho Square.
Thursday 22 May: Address to the London Oratory 'Living under Communism', 8pm.
Saturday 24th May: Latin Mass Society Conference, Regent Hall, Oxford Street, London, from 11am to 6pm. Book tickets here.Sunday 25 May: Pontifical Low Mass in the London Oratory at 9am. Bishop Schneider will attend First Vespers of St Philip’s Day, 6pm, and celebrate Benediction.
Monday 26 May: LMS pilgrimage to Ramsgate - Mass at the Shrine of St Augustine of Canterbury, for the Feast of St Augustine, at 12noon; procession with a relic at 11am. Bishop Schnieider will also preach at the 6pm Mass at the London Oratory for St Philip’s Day.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Vigil Pictures

The altar during the Easter Vigil, more pictures here.

Ian's Reception and Confirmation

With the post-Mass distribution of Blessed eggs

The Pope's alleged phone call

People have been asking me about what the Pope has been allegedly saying to that divorced and civilly remarried Argentinian woman.

Jesus said, "Every one who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery; and every one that marries one put away from a husband commits adultery". Now, I cannot imagine anyone who loves Christ and his teaching, saying to this poor woman, 'Jesus, says one thing but I teach something that is opposite to Jesus, follow me because I am greater than Jesus Christ'.

Now, simply, that would be anti-Christ and a diabolic blasphemy, so the poor woman is either mistaken or lying.

Perhaps someone in the Vatican needs clarify things and our beloved Holy Father needs to stop making these silly telephone calls that lead to confusion, and seriously damage people's faith. Vatileaks were bad enough but these phone calls are a thousand times more dangerous.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saints and Popes

With the canonisations of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II almost upon us, it is worth considering the obvious change in the nature of 'Sainthood', especially in recent years.

At one time hagiographies were for the most part brief and to the point, excelling in the supernatural, dotted regularly with the miraculous both in the saint's life and maybe more importantly after the saints death. St Thomas of Canterbury is an obvious example of a rather irascible divisive bishop, who was vindicated by his post-mortem miracles. Nowadays miracles don't seem important, some have suggested they should be dispensed with altogether, Pope John is being Canonised with only one to his name. Pope Francis has like his predecessors canonised people simply by decree, without cultus or any signs of the supernatural. Some modern miracles for example the deliverance of the American deacon of back problems as in the case of Blessed John Henry Newman have surprised even the postulators of the cause and really do seem somewhat 'thin'. In the world of the rational the supernatural becomes an embarrassment to many, even in the Church.

There are 20th Century saints like St Charbel and Padre Pio where the miraculous and the supernatural abound, where the cultus is so strong, and the popular demand for their canonisation would mean that in whatever age they would be raised to the altar, and even if they hadn't been they would be 'canonised' and their intercession sought by popular acclamation.

Pope John Paul canonised more saints than all the other Pope's in history, it was part of his sense that today holiness still exists and that holiness is available to everyone, it is very much the fruit of VII and modern spiritual movements like Opus Dei. It was almost as if every foreign trip involved the Beatification or Canonisation of a new tranche of Martyrs hardly heard of outside of their homeland or some obscure Mother Superior.

Benedict clarified the distinction between Blesseds and Saints, somewhat, the former  having a local cultus, the latter a universal one, still it seems as if many of those 'formally listed' as Saints -that is what Canonisation means, or Beati, really have little of a cult, an interest in their literary works, even the dedication of institutions constitutes honouring their memory but hardly dulia, in the religious sense of previous age, which seemed to see saints above all as powerful intercessors with God. Of the three ancient requirements:: 1) an outstanding example of Christian living, 2) a life in which grace is manifest, and 3) signs that the prospective saint's intercession is heard, the 3rd, intercession seems to have been lost as a necessity for canonisation. Those critical of the Canonisation of the these two Popes, in fact those who are anxious about the canonisation of most of the 20th century Popes, suggest that it is a way of canonising a political idea rather than people.

The old debate about whether Canonisation is infallible or not I suspect has lost its edge, in the past it was ultimately about whether and individual was in Heaven or not, now everyone goes to heaven, the process has been stripped of the supernatural element, Aquinas is often quoted, but he says, “Because the honour which we show to the saints is a certain profession of faith by which we believe in the glory of the saints, it should be devoutly believed that not even in these matters can the judgement of the Church err,” the 'err' here is not the same as the Church erring in the same sense as its teaching on doctrine. What St Thomas seems to be suggesting that we respectfully acquiesce, more for the sake of unity than anything else.

Fr Faber, who could fairly be described as an Ultramontane  in "An Essay on Beatification, Canonization, and the Processes of the Congregation of Rites" written in 1848, in the build up to VI suggests Aquinas thought Canonisation was more a pious belief rather than an inerrant act. Faber also is at pains to say the Church has never defined what it means when someone is Canonised. It is worth noting that VI seems to deliberately limit infallibility to faith and morals, and purposely avoided including the canonisation process.

The modern process of Canonisation seems more a political, a way of capturing history, rather than a declaration of something supernatural, more about the canonisation of ideas, rather than the declaration of outstanding holiness.

Around which modern Pope have Angels gathered to avert plague, which has levitated during Mass or bilocated for some pastoral errand, how many have been stigmatics, whose corpse has smelt of roses or remained incorrupt, who has appeared to countless members of the faithful after death or brought consolation to imprisoned or appeared physically on the battlefield?

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Holy Fire

Worshippers hold candles as they take part in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City April 19, 2014 (Reuters / Amir Cohen)

Happy and Blessed Easter, May the Light of the Risen Christ fill you with His Joy!

The Exultet speaks of the Church shaking, of the night being changed to day, of the mighty voices of the faithful. of trumpets sounding, of being filled with joy it doesn't seem to happen quite that!

The Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem, is the popular highlight of Orthodox worship in the city of the Resurrection. It is a strange mixture of liturgy, devotion, political expression, partisanship, it is exuberant and wild, westerners who have witnessed have described it as terrifying. For Palestinian Christians especially it is a celebration of who they are and of the simple fact that they belong in the Holy Land, Holy City and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This year Israeli police have tried again to restrict access to the Holy Sepulchre and to the areas around it, it is part of the process of 'control' of minorities, especially Palestinians and Christians who have lived in Jerusalem for centuries. Even under the Ottomans there was fear of riot, today the same fears exist, as well as modern concerns about 'elf and safety'.

Many really do accept the fire is indeed supernatural as the videos introduction says; in the West the movement of the Crucifix from the tomb to the High Altar was often so described, before the Reformation; and I seem to remember, when Holy Week rituals varied considerably from place to place that fire or a candle was 'entombed' in some hidden place and its reappearance as fire was described as 'miraculous'. Many Orthodox would describe not just the coming of the fire as miraculous but the fire itself, saying that when first taken from the tomb it doesn't burn, of torches spontaneously lighting, even of miracles of healing taking place during the ceremony.

For us Westerners exotic exuberance is really very alien, it is certainly not part of the staid matter-of-factness of the Roman Rite. If anything post-Concilliar piety has become even more staid and controlled.

A Polish priest friend told me of having several thousand at food blessing on Holy Saturday, less than a hundred at the 'Queen of Liturgies', the Easter Vigil and just hundreds at the Easter Masses. In Spain the traditional penitential street procession bring out the whole town, apart from the old lefties, whilst the attendance at official liturgies can be somewhat meagre. At Christmas some parishes do a children's crib service with the Eucharist tacked on, early on Christmas Eve, they are packed out, whilst the actual Christmas Day Masses have dramatically decreasing congregations.

Low Sunday, the Liturgy certainly speaks of God's mercy, the Gospel of Jesus giving the Apostle power to forgive sins but it is the devotion to St Faustina's 'Divine Mercy' that has gradually taken over. For some, Good Friday seems to be just the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena.

Most priests are creatures of the 'Liturgical Movement' but I am beginning to wonder whether its followers are necessarily doing something good. 'Devotions' were very much part of the Irish experience, pilgrimage to local sacred sites, the Rosary, the Sacred Heart, private penitential practices seemed to have nourished something vibrant, I can't help thinking imposing the liturgy on people at the expense of devotions is one of the reasons for the loss of health in the Irish Church.

The video of Fr Ray Kelly fills me with horror but I wonder if in fact for most people the modern Liturgy actually creates a vacuum, which priest like Fr Kelly feel obliged to fill, other 'pastoral' priest seem compelled to fill something which is lacking by puppetry, dance, entertainment, felt banners, in fact what people like me roll our eyes at.

In the Old Rite, which even Pope Francis recently described as becoming fashionable, especially amongst the young, it seems to be accepted that the clergy said Mass and did what priests should do, often in a perfunctory, workman-like way, whilst the faithful simply did their own thing. Clergy and laity were interdependent but somehow rather than controlling the faithful, or worst still clericalising them, the clergy seemed to feed and encourage their devotion.

In the video of the Miracle of the Holy Fire the clergy seem to do their own thing and they laity there's, is there a clue that the laity here are predominantly rather loud men, not in suits? They could be a football crowd. It strikes me that perhaps one key to new-evangelisation is simply putting as much effort into promoting popular devotion as we have into the Liturgy, maybe somehow especially amongst men.

Basically, I want people to go wild with the Easter Mysteries rather than treat them as an old maid's tea party in an English parlour.

Another example of 'Greek Fire'
thanks to Fr Tim

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Whilst the Church sleeps Beata who is very talented, like our servers and sacristans and choir puts the finishing touches to the flower arrangements. The veils are of course removed from the statues when the altar candles are lit during the Gloria, for some reason we tend only to be able to get the lights to come on during the Gloria. I know the rubric says the lights should be on during the reading of the seven prophecies but they just don't work then, so we listen to them in the radiance of the Risen Christ. It does seem strange to have the three Lumen Christi's and then turn on the electricity straight away, as they do in Rome. I think there is great symbolism in reading the Old Testament in the light of the risen Christ. 
As I say that is what the rubrics seem to say, though of course there is no specific mention of the 'electric light' or for that matter of the 'electric microphone', in the Missal, though there are clear indications that the priest prays at Mass facing the same direction as the people and most priest don't do it, we do here, so from the Gloria on the altar will be a mass of light.

Anyhow while everyone works hard here is a picture of me reading the tablet, we do not allow the magazine of that name in the Church but I love Universalis, quite a few of my parishioners have started saying the Office from it, much cheaper than the paper version, we use it to prepare Mass leaflets too, and the MCs are debating whether it appropriate to use a tablet for the prayers which here are done in the dark, and maybe the 7 prophecies too.

Good News! Holy Saturday

This is really the Good News: today Christ has descended amongst the dead, and death itself has been destroyed, the Just led from captivity to freedom. Mankind has has been reconciled to God, heaven has been opened up to us.

For those with faith the grave holds no terror, we have been made anew. We who were once enemies of God, have been made friends. More than that, we have become Sons: what Christ  is by nature we have become by adoption, we have become Divine, we have become Immortal, we have come to share in the life of the Holy Trinity, into whose inner life we have been baptised.

The past has been destroyed, the shackles and chains that held us in the grip of sin have been broken, once slaves and captive, now we are truly free as God has desired. Today God's plan for us has been revealed. Today what has been shown in the Old Covenant in a hidden Mystery is now shown clearly in the one who is the Resurrection and the Life.

An 'Ancient Homily' from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday
"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.
Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.
The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.
‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.
‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.
‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.
'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.
`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.
‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.
"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."
Christ descends, splits assunder the created order, trampling the gates of Hell, under his feet are Satan's locks and fetters that have held us captive, he grabs hold of our ancient parents and leads them and all the just from hell, their inglorious prison to the their freely given glory.
This is the reason I find it incongruous, we should join the baying mob crying, 'crucify him' during the Passion, that some might disagree with me, I say this with a smile, indicates how far we fail appreciate what Christ has done for us, and how little the Resurrection, and therefore Grace, really impinges on our theology. Yes, concupiscence, the wounds of sin, exists but in the West we too easily loose sight of what God has made us.

Holy Saturday, today, is very much a dies non. It is not as the Orthodox might term it 'Holy and Great Saturday'. It is interesting that whilst most Catholics simply ignore it, for the Poles who use our Church it the time when even those who are lapsed still turn out in huge numbers for 'food blessing', even the lapsed come, Polish priests complain, 'they come for food blessing but ignore Easter Mass' for two hours there there are short back to back services of blessing. I estimate that with the Church filling and emptying over a thousand people pass through our doors. What the liturgy fails to do 'food blessing' manages to accomplish.

For Poles food blessing, not the Vigil, marks the end of Lent, perhaps that is why here in England Lent seems to fade out and people aren't that certain when to start indulging. I was really disappointed some of my parishioners decided it was after the Liturgy yesterday and went off to the pub opposite the church, someone else told me about her delicious bacon sandwich which she for lunch, I hope I am not moaning just saying how little impact our attempts at teaching have. Food blessing is an interesting vestige of the pre-Pius XII reform of the Easter Vigil which occurred not in the evening of Holy Saturday but early in the morning. Though the pious might have joined the clergy for the solemn Vigil, in which the Church was restored, 'Resurrecting' if you will, most of the faithful would have come to this rite of blessing later in the day, to, in a sense, take Easter home. Before Holy Thursday the Missal calls for fonts etc to be emptied of Holy Water, we pour all of ours into the sacrarium, the Poles keep some or bless some for this blessing of food, presumably that is a vestige too of the old early morning Vigil.

When we eventually come to rewrite, not just the modern Missal but the Rites themselves, perhaps the experts who do it might encourage some connection between the what happens in the Church and what happens the home, the 'domestic church'. I couldn't help noticing yesterday how dated the Intercessions sounded, time capsules from the 1960s!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Donkeys and Asses

One of my parishioners asked, "Father couldn't we have a donkey for Palm Sunday next year?"
"Why?" I asked,
"For the children", she replied.
"Can't you teach them to be content with the ass God has sent them and is here every Sunday, rather than coveting their neighbour's donkey.


Whilst we are on the subject, for the North American who read here last year the word is pronounced 'ass' as in 'ass-embly' or 'lass' not  as in 'farce'.

While I'm rambling, another of my parishioners said, "You know, Father up until the Council we all used to say 'Mass' as in 'pass', then suddenly we had to say 'Mass' as in 'crass'. Off-guard, I still occasionally find myself saying 'Holy Mass", as my American friend pronounces 'ass'.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Confessional advice for frequent sinners

So you have been coming to Confession for the last forty-eight years and apart from a few occasions, you could be saying, "Same as last time. Father".

Some sins are like crocodiles, the really do kill the soul: murder, apostasy and adultery, were considered the very worse, for most of us they are easily recognised and avoided and once recognised can be dealt with, the same with other sins which are like rats that gnaw away at our souls given gravity, full knowledge and willing co-operation, they too kill our relationship with God, but they are recognisable. Once we understand how dreadful they are we bring them to Confession and deal with them.

The third type of sins are like fleas or lice, we know they are, we feel them biting, we can recognise the rash or the sickness the bring, sometimes they are the infections of other people, sometimes something that has been growing in the depths of our soul for years. These sins often infect us from childhood, maybe even infections we receive from our parents or from friends or those we associate with. They produce dis-ease but we can't identify them.

The first two types of sin must be dealt with in the Confessional, not only to free us from them but to heal us of the infections they bring, in one sense they are easily dealt with, not dealing with them can cost us our salvation and lead us to eternal separation from God, to Hell. They must be confessed before we receive Holy Communion because they turn Communion into eating and drinking our condemnation, something which should be salvific into something which brings judgement upon us.

The third type of sin, we are not strictly bound to confess, and although the wounds can be quite serious, they tend to distance us from God rather separate us from him. They certainly wound our relationship with him, hence we call the 'venial' rather 'mortal'. They are best dealt with by bringing ourselves into contact with Christ through prayer and penance certainly but also through Christ's healing power in the Most Holy Eucharist and as far as we are able to name them in the Sacrament of Penance. It is worth remembering that the Sacrament of Penance isn't just about the forgiveness of sins but also meeting Christ who heals and who strengthens, so that we can say truly, 'By the help of your Grace I will never sin again'. Confession renews Christ's power in us.

Remember it is by His Grace we pray we will never sin again, we can do our best but for all our efforts we come back with the same old bag of rubbish. The good news is 'Jesus saves'. And it is Jesus, not us who saves us. We are not the Saviour of the world, or even of our families, and certainly not of ourselves, it is blasphemous even to think it. All we have is our weakness, and our history of sin but recognising that and handing it over to Christ is our only strength.

All we can give Him is our weakness, taking it along to the Calvary, the city rubbish dump and placing all our sin, our rubbish before Him, who takes away the sins of the world. He alone can heal us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The sign we give

I was pleased last year to have a bad back and so on Holy Thursday I had already thought about not washing the feet during the Sacred Triduum, I hesitated because the choir had already prepared the music for it and the chant for it had been printed in the Mass booklets. When Pope Francis decided to disregard the Church's law and follow his own instincts, I decided to follow mine and not wash anyone's feet but instead leave the bowl and towel that we would have used on the sanctuary step and invite people to come forward and put money in the bowl for the poor whilst the Mandatum was sung, they were very generous.

Before I understood the meaning of the rite I was happy to wash anyone's feet, because like the Pope I understood it to be about serving others. The CDW of course explained that it was about Christ specifically caring for the Apostles, those gathered with him at the Eucharist, who he would that evening commission to celebrate Mass themselves by saying "Do this in memory of me", it was obvious I was wrong and had misled people. I have had several battles, as have many priests, to do what the Law requires us to do and wash only the feet of men.. If the Pope chooses to break the Law, that is a personal choice, he has the power as Pontiff to change it but he has chosen not to do so.

I think the media and dissidenr Catholics likes to present the Pope as a latter day Robin Hood, adapting the Law and customs  to suit himself, the problem is of course that it creates confusion for everyone else and weakens the sense of the Law for the rest of us. Law can of course be oppressive but in the Church it is meant to preserve justice and to protect the weak, and ensure the strong do not exceed their authority or pervert doctrine.

My mother used to speak of everyone in authority washing the feet of those subject to their authority before Easter in her Yugoslavian village; fathers would wash the feet of their families, masters and their servants, employers their employees, teachers the feet of the children they taught, army officers the feet of their soldiers, even partisan leaders would wash the feet of their communist comrades. After the Reformation in England the Sovereign continued to wash the feet of the poor until the 18th century, the "Royal Maundy" continues without the washing, with the Queen giving money to the poor. I would very much welcome Francis and indeed the whole Roman Curia going out into the streets of Rome with bowls, ewers and towels to wash the feet of poor and to distribute alms all day on Holy Thursday - what a wonderful sign.

Here, for a brief time I used wash the feet of 12 male rough sleepers at Mass and give them a small 'offering', they would come along just for that portion of the Mass and go. I think people thought it was rather wonderful, I began to think it was crass and more about me, than the liturgy or Christ. Christ's sign is not one about caring for the poor, or even those on the 'peripheries' of the Church, rather it is about caring for those at the heart of the Church, it ends the continued bickering amongst the disciples about who is the greatest.

There is something very intimate about the sign of the Bishop washing the feet of his beoloved priests, as there was something intimate about Christ washing his apostles feet. Peter, and presumably the others, was deeply embarrassed by it. It wasn't a public act but one behind closed doors, in the Upper Room. Judas after all is the one the disciples presume is being sent to give relief to the poor, the faithful Apostles remained with the Christ. Foot-washing is an ad intra sign at the heart of the Church. It was indeed a statement about power and relationships in the Church's government. In Rome especially where there is huge gap filled by various 'leperous courtiers', (Francis' words) between the Bishop of Rome and his diocesan clergy, how beautiful the sign of the Pope getting down on his knees to serve those who in theory are supposed to be his co-workers and closest collaborators. There are two signs that were given by Francis last year, the first was washing the feet of boys and girls, some of whom were not Christians, the second sign, which is equally powerful though not noticed by the more casual observer was deciding not to wash his priest's feet.

There is something significant about Jesus washing the feet of the twelve then going on the share the Passover with them. There is something very important that he takes this heavily prescribed Jewish ritual and changes it. I wonder whether using a ewe rather than ram would have invalidated the rite, presumably the Angel of death would have struck down the first born if the victim's sex broke with Tradition, for the Jews this of course wasn't an issue they simply did what was handed on.. Playing about with signs and symbols and there language within the context of religion is very dangerous, we simply don't know what can of worms we are opening up.

The signs we give are always multi-layered, signs go beyond words, the don't have a fixed meaning, often the sign intended is not the sign that is received, different people perceive signs in different ways. Last year Francis' footwashing was taken by the world as a great act of his personal humility, for others it was a sign of inclusivity, involving non-Christians and women in this rite. I am afraid for me and for many others, it was a sign of lawlessness at the heart of the Church, the Supreme Lawgiver of the Catholic Church acting lawlessly. It became a sign of how during the Franciscan Pontificate the law -and tradition- should be interpreted, the Mandatum is after all about law and power. The chant that accompanies it says, "I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you ...", this is a commandment laid not on everyone but only on Christ's followers, the Church.

The build up to the Synod on the Family is an obvious example of the breaking down of certainties, after the Kasper intervention at the Consistory it seems, to some, that the Church's teaching appears to be in a state of flux by those who are looking for signs. I was told of a man recently who for over two decades has been living heroically in a 'brother/sister' relationship with an equally heroic woman whose first marriage broke down after ten years, they tried to get an annulment which failed, since then they have done their best to live according to the teaching of the Church. The man having read the text of the Cardinal's speech asked, 'Father, have we wasted the last 22 years?' He said that he now felt his faith was undermined, that the struggle he and his 'wife' had engaged in was by the Cardinal's teaching meaningless and vainglorious and that it was endorsed by the Pope who hadn't given any clear sign that he upheld the teaching these two people were trying to live by. There are many men and women in this situation, the sacrifices they have made have been truly heroic, for me they are signs of grace and often heroic virtue, now it seems that they might well have wasted their lives, this is another of the signs that is being given.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cru - ci - fy Him, cru - ci- fy Him

Fr Simon Henry has a post about participation, in which he says he chooses to read the shorter form of the Passion on Palm Sunday, I have been doing that for years, partly because if we didn't our Mass would over run and the Poles who have the next Mass slot will be arriving and waiting for Polish confessions and it just would not be fair. His reason is, "...rather than endure the miserable doling out of parts to various readers and the "crowd" voice to the slightly embarrassed congregation, with the attendant inconsequential mutterings of, "cru - ci - fy Him, cru - ci- fy Him" echoing underwhelmingly around the church.

Yes, I too hate the primary-schoolisation of adults, I really loathe that classroom thing some old priests have, of greeting with, 'Good morning everyone' to which the congregation like Class 2 replies "Good-morn-ning-Father", it is horrid, it is infantalising, it is secular, especially if it replaces the Christian greeting of "Dominus vobiscum", in whatever language.

But my real big hate, which has a very serious theological  basis, is I too hate the congregation crying, "Crucify him". It is obviously necessary for a deputed person to do it as it is the text of the Gospels but actually we aren't the baying mob, we are the Faithful who stand at the foot of the Cross, we are the Church, we stand alongside the Holy Women and St John. For all our sinfulness, we are the friends of Jesus, though maybe we behave like enemies, we are his costly-bought disciples.

I am glad Fr Henry's congregation mutters underwhelmingly, "cru - ci - fy Him, cru - ci- fy Him", it shows that his catechesis on the Mass and his people place at Mass has had a good  effect. It would be terrifying if they really did say these words with any enthusiasm.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A few thoughts on Evangelisation

A few thoughts on Evangelisation with SPES tramping the streets of my parish calling in the lost and the distanced.

Someone left a comment recently to the effect that ever since the Second Vatican Council we have been talking endlessly about evangelisation but in practice doing very little, in fact it could be said we have been 'counter evangelising', at least in the North we have lost far more than we have gained: empty churches, empty seminaries, empty convents are a testimony to our success.

On the eve of the Council ordination years of 60 plus were not uncommon in seminaries in Ireland, Holland, Belgium, even France, religious sister often had similar numbers of professions. The bitter truth is that seminaries and novitiates that trained these young men and women have now closed, Trads blame the changes brought in by the Council, liberals blame the changes not brought in after the Council, Conservatives blame 'sociological factors', though no-one seems to have done a serious study on what are these factors.

 Most Catholics, including priests and therefore one might also suggest bishops too, I would suggest are unconvinced about the need for Evangelisation, the notion of universal salvation, an empty Hell, have taken hold so tightly that there is no reason to Evangelise. It simply doesn't have a supernatural, salvific or teleological purpose. Universalism means that really evangelising people just ties burdens on people, alienating them from their culture and imposing unnecessary moral burdens on them.

A second not unconnected reason is that we do not know how to evangelise. We do not know what needs to be communicated. Do we actually dare to say that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and without him no-one can know the Father? Are we not more likely to suggest that Evangelisation is about joining a hand-holding, feel good community, with few moral or faith demands. Our problem is that there is so much confusion about what Catholics actually believe and how Catholics are expected to live.

Despite Vatican II urging everyone to Evangelise; a very characteristic trend of pre-Concilliar spirituality seen in such movements as wide ranging as the Liturgical Movement, Opus Dei, the Legion of Mary, the Catholic Evidence Guild, not to mention such publications as the CTS the Tablet and the work many significant Catholic authors, Evangelisation has become like so many things in the Church an area of specialisation. Teachers or catechists not mothers and fathers are expected to evangelise children. The idea that a work of mercy incumbent on all to teach the ignorant has so slipped far from Catholic consciousness to the point where it seems many 'small group meetings', RCIA groups seem to be sharing and compounding rather than dispelling ignorance. Such discussion only serves to spread confusion.  As the previous Pope said to our own Bishops:
In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognise dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.

Evangelisation can only possibly work

  • if the members of the Church recognise the need to do it
  • if they are confident in doing it
  • if they know what message needs to be communicated
  • if there is no confusion about the message
  • if we have a leadership that actually practices it (rather than merely talks about it)
Ultimately it is possible only if we believe in it

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

From Soho to Brighton

Later today the six members of SPES St Patrick's Evangelisation School are arriving in Brighto to tramp the streets of my parish to invite people to come to the life changing Easter Mysteries.

We clergy talk a lot about Evangelisation, I often think its a bit of an excuse not to do it. It is the Sir Humphrey thing, "Yes Prime Minister, we'll set up a Royal Commission", which will talk and talk and produce a lot of paper, make people feel good but achieve nothing.

We are taking the Holy Father seriously and going out onto the streets -the peripheries- and to talking about God.

There are actually seven in the team, Fr Alexander's dog is coming down too (dog pictures to follow).

Pray for the SPES team, pray this little burst of evangelisation is fruitful, pray for my parish, pray for the people who SPES will talk to.

Somehow the Church needs to undergo a conversion from seeing itself as centred on offering Mass for those already safely inside the Church to offering baptism to those outside but then we need to be convinced by Jesus' words, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". These words precede, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink".
Evangelisation leads to Baptism and Baptism leads to the Eucharist and eternal life - we need to be convinced that the ultimate act of charity is giving Jesus Christ, because no-one can come to the Father except through him.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Best thing I have read: Joe Shaw on Liberalism

Our faith is entirely rational, indeed it may be arrived at by reason but we cannot replace it with reason.

Some Russian General said or should have said, 'If you want to be victorious don't let you adversary choose the battlefield'. Joseph Shaw, in one of the best things I have read on the net, argues in a four part post that as Catholics we can't really engage liberals on the level of pure logic or pure reason and win, in part because we fundamentally disagree on the opening premise of what is 'good' and what is the 'end' of mankind.

He argues, as we have seen that liberalism grows and grows, ultimately it consumes itself in totalitarianism. What he seems to be writing about is the dethroning of God and the setting up of the State in God's place; an idol that all are forced to worship and obey. He blames social conservatives (but we could also add religious conservatives) who bit by bit concede to the liberal agenda.

Increasingly we will find that 'the liberals' want to destroy the Church and her teaching if they cannot remake her in their own image, we see this in nuns teaching the Catholic faith clearly in the US being met with howls of protest in the US, or others like a friend's wife here being spat upon for upholding on the television a view about the nature of marriage, which only a year or two ago would have been considered perfectly normal.

We can continue to compromise, admitting pro-abortion, pro-same sex politicians to Holy Communion, we can continue to allow the government to dictate how we teach Catholic morality in our schools but the time is no too far away when even the most eirenical of the senior clergy must realise that allowing Stonewall and other such groups, who in their fundamental understanding of the very nature of the human person, into our schools is simply not possible and is contradiction of all we hold dear. We are getting to stage where good bishops who seek to protect their sheep from persecution must concede that it is impossible to serve liberalism and God. Liberalism itself will not allow it, its nature is too prescriptive.

Dr Shaw indicates that the liberal agenda starts by talking of freedom but ultimately enslaves, as big government grows and 'for the good' of society tries to control every aspect of human existence the 'lie' of liberalism will emerge. I am left by his piece thinking that the 'useful idiots' the conservatives, will merely supply a more moderate face to something very unpleasant until the disguise eventually slips.

Catholic Tradition is always radical, it is not about museum curating, it about contradiction of liberal values. Conservatives will never change hearts and minds, never evangelise, never offer an alternative to 'the world' and never be able to offer an alternative to the destructive stranglehold that today embraces popular society.

What was it Pope Benedict said to our Bishops:
"Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth."
"[S]ocial milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free."
I am glad Pope Francis continues the radical call, not to embrace 'Gospel values' but to embrace the person of Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 07, 2014

So why 'Traddies' at Preston?

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster announced on Sunday that Mgr Gilles Wach, General Prior of the institute, together with parish priest Fr Simon Hawksworth, have agreed to establish a foundation of the Institute at the Church of St Walburge, Preston, in the early autumn.

Now why is it that "The Dome of Home" Ss Peter and Paul, New Brighton, St Wilfrids, York and now the iconic St Walburge's, Preston have been handed over to 'traddie' religious? I mean where are the dynamic liberal religious orders? Why is it that these city centre parishes, which obviously are going to need a lot of hard work, to restore and normally have tiny congregations, are so attractive to 'traddies' and simply dismissed by others of a more liberal outlook? Why is it 'traddies' actually hope to make a go of these places, whilst others just want to shut them down, why this hope?

FFI family pleads with Pope

manelli.jpg The Holy Father has a deep devotion to the icon "Salus Populi Romani", the ancient icon in St Mary Major, where the Franciscans of the Immaculate care for the sacristy, under this title Our Lady is patroness of his diocese.

The family of the founder of The Immaculate live in the poor parish of St Gregory the Great in Magliana on the 'peripheries' of his diocese. Here live relatives of the FI's founder father, Fr Stefano Maneli, Pio and Annamaria Manelli, they present the Pope with a copy of the icon of "Salus Populi Romani".

Doing so they said, "Holy Father, we have nine children, six of who are members of Franciscans of the Immaculate. We beg you, release them from the tombs" (La supplichiamo, li tiri fuori dai sepolcri), they presented him with a copy of the icon. The Pope embraced them and replied, "Soon, soon".

thanks to CR

Lessons on the correct disposition for Holy Communion

A priest friend of mine told me he was very impressed a few weeks ago by a little boy who was nine or ten, home schooled, who said he very much wanted to go to Holy Communion but he had kicked his sister on the way to Mass, so he couldn't. His reason: because he was so annoyed with her he couldn't bring himself to apologise.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Politicians and Communion

I wrote to Bishop Philip Egan thanking him for the stand he has taken in his public pronouncements on the reception of Holy Communion by those politicians who voted for same sex marriage and for abortion. I told him I thought it was courageous and thanked him for setting an example. Fr Dickson draws attention to the fact that Greg Pope's letter, written at the behest of Mgr Marcus Stock and therefore presumably under the rather nuanced direction of Vincent Cardinal Nichols, says the Bishops of E&W 'have no plans' to withhold Holy Communion from such politicians.

I think the great problem is that many Catholics including politicians are unaware of the existence of Canon 916 and a bishops or priests duty regarding the admission or exclusion of anyone from Holy Communion. No wonder Bishop Egan's words came as shock. I suspect that most, and my suspicion is born out by the responses to the German bishops questionnaire in preparation for the Synod on the family that after years of silence on sexuality, the family etc by us clergy most Catholics are profoundly ignorant both of what and why the Church teaches what she does. If they have any understanding at all it is a mere caricature of the reality fed by the media. I simply wonder what formation Catholics in politics have regarding their faith. The Church's 'opposition to SSM was a non-starter from its beginning bcause we have failed to teach effectively about the Natural Law, about the nature and effects of sin, or the richness of the Church's teaching on gender or the family. How many sermons or pastoral letters have you heard on these subjects in the last 30 years?

For too long we clergy have taught a hotch potch of the faith, barely believing it ourselves and convincing very few, the words of S Paul to Timothy are entirely apposite, when I stand before Christ to be judged, as a priest I dread them:
Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I charge you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement 
We simply haven't done it! The "message" hasn't been proclaimed, it has been eviscerated. Falsehood hasn't been refuted and error hasn't been corrected, most of us have insisted on nothing. We have fallen into the trap of groups like ACTA of faffing with deckchairs whilst the Titanic slips below the North Atlantic. After ten/eleven years of Catholic education in this country most 'Catholics' simply have no idea how to live or even how to die a Catholic, indeed the vast majority simply give up in their teens if not before. If there is any faith it has little exterior expression.

Vatican II said somewhere that Episcopal Conferences were suppose produce regional catechisms, as someone said to me recently we that have YouCat but something more fundamental is needed. Most Catholics don't know why they should baptise their children or how to pray with them, what to say in the Confessional or why, what marriage is, what the Church is or even how to die well. It is no wonder that in most dioceses in England and Wales, cities like mine with a dozen or so semi-active priests within two decades will been down to one or two if they are fortunate - some French dioceses will actually have that number for their whole diocese long before then. The easy, non-biblical, liberal answer is to dilute the faith, which probably works for one generation but is ultimately unconvincing -look at the demise of European Protestant Ecclesial Communities- rather than to concentrate and distil it and live it in its intensity.

I posted the words of Bishop Egan's own MP, he says 'we have a new gentle shepherd preaching a Christ-like message of inclusivity, love, tolerance and forgiveness', that is, I think, what many Catholics think the Gospel and Christ is about, it is the 'Church of Nice', which is as far removed from the Sermon on the Mount and the Cross as the Women's Institute scone making advice leaflet.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Queen meets Pope

Later today the Queen will meet Pope Francis, here she meets Pope John XXIII, interesting to see the animation of the Pope.
Today will be a simpler affair, no tiara, no court dress and fewer courtiers on both sides.
Here is an account of the meeting, simple gifts from the Queen, a bottle of Scotch and stuff from her estates and princely gifts from the Pope, an orb for Prince George.

The Pope on Sloth and Accidia #2

 “I think it is a great pity, indeed a tragedy, that this bishop appears not to have noticed that we have a new gentle shepherd preaching a Christ-like message of inclusivity, love tolerance and forgiveness. I look to the guidance of the Holy Father Pope Francis.”
These remarks appeared in the Tablet, they are from the Portsmouth MP Conor Burns after Bishop Egan reiterated the Church's teaching on the reception of Holy Communion by those politicians who have demonstrated they are not in Communion with Catholic Church. Politicians who fail to take Christ into the voting lobby are surely those who demonstrate the 'formalism' that Pope Francis complains about so frequently, "the life of these people, consists in having all the paperwork, all the certificates, in order."

“Christian hypocrites, like these, only interested in their formalities. It was a Sabbath? No, you cannot do miracles on the Sabbath, the grace of God cannot work on Sabbath days. They close the door to the grace of God. We have so many in the Church, we have many! It is another sin. The first, those who have the sin of sloth, are not able to go forward with their apostolic zeal, because they have decided to stand firm in themselves, in their sorrows, their resentments, in all of that. Such as these are not capable of bringing salvation because they close the door to salvation.” 
“I think of many Christians, of many Catholics: yes, they are Catholics, but without enthusiasm, even embittered. 'Yes, life is what it is, but the Church – I go to Mass every Sunday, but better not get mixed up in things – I have faith for my health, I do not feel the need to give it to another...’. Each in his own house, the quiet life: but, you do something and then they criticize you: ‘No, leave it alone [It. è meglio così], don’t chance it.’ This is the disease of sloth, the acedia of Christians. This attitude that is crippling the apostolic zeal, which makes Christian people stand still and at ease, but not in the good sense of the word: they do not bother to go out to proclaim the Gospel! They are anesthetized.”

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Pope on Sloth and Accidia

The Pope preached yesterday on sloth and accidia, it was like many of his sermons, rather than giving hope to those who dwell in this dark pit he just puts the boot in again and again and again, I often get the impression both from the content and delivery of his daily homilies that His Holiness doesn't prepare them as he much as Charity might demand he should.
The slothful and accidic are often builders or the partners in the building of their particular sinful hole but simply pointing out their responsibility, to me, doesn't seem that helpful. It would be a little like Jesus going to the man by the pool, yesterdays Gospel. and simply telling him he was the author of his own misfortune and telling him to 'pull himself together' and get one with life.
Grinding a sinners face in his sin doesn't help, Jesus is always merciful, and more gives hope.
With my parishioners I tend to regard sloth and accidie as being the result of having a particular personality type: a tendency to depression, and a lack of inspirational leadership, often on my part. Between that their lies an inability to grasp the full implications of the Gospel, or often a confusion about what is Christian teaching but the real reason is a loss of hope, and yes a weakness of faith and charity, It comes from a self destructive coldness heart, a failure to appreciate God's love for oneself and to love oneself because God first loves you.
“I think of many Christians, of many Catholics: yes, they are Catholics, but without enthusiasm, even embittered. 'Yes, life is what it is, but the Church – I go to Mass every Sunday, but better not get mixed up in things – I have faith for my health, I do not feel the need to give it to another...’. Each in his own house, the quiet life: but, you do something and then they criticize you: ‘No, leave it alone [It. è meglio così], don’t chance it.’ This is the disease of sloth, the acedia of Christians. This attitude that is crippling the apostolic zeal, which makes Christian people stand still and at ease, but not in the good sense of the word: they do not bother to go out to proclaim the Gospel! They are anesthetized.”
The problem is, often, not the poor sheep's fault but the shepherd's. Frankly I think I am fortunate if I can get people even to the level "formalism", if they are coming to Mass, then maybe, just maybe Christ or the apostles might pass by and heal them.
There was a time when seminaries and convents were full, when many lay people were actively involved in the mission of the Church, the sloth and accidia we see around us seems to be deeply ingrained in the Church of today.

Changing Times

Change, fast change without thought for the implications of the change are not new, they are part of human nature.
A crowd one day cries, "Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord", within a week it is replaced by another crowd shouting "Crucify him, crucify him".

A school friend of mine told me about how his grandfather, a much decorated Austrian war hero, a respected lawyer, living well in middleclass Vienna within a year ended up being starved and worked to death in a concentration camp.  Human nature is fickle, a happy gathering can easily turn into a violent fist fight. A struggle for democracy and freedom can so easily turn into a fascist rout.

We have witnessed this in the Church, I remember my first encounter with the Traditional Mass, offered on the plinth of Nelson' Column in Trafalgar Square, during an anti-abortion rally in 1974. That which had sustained the Church for a millennium and a half, was suddenly regarded as profane, even dangerous, I remember being told by a good, holy priest not have anything to do with it, he seemed to think of it as more dangerous than the women who screamed, "Women should decide their fate, not the Church and not the State".

On Sunday I offered Mass for a sick old lady in her 90s, who under Stalin had risked imprisonment daily, she had run a secret catechetical school for children in the the Ukraine. The place of Christianity in the former Soviet bloc has changed dramatically. A friend who worked until recently as a priest in Albania, tells of older priests still working in his former diocese who were imprisoned and tortured for years, who worked secretly giving the sacraments to people who could have their children taken away for making the sign of the Cross or being absent from school on Christmas day.

We live in a fickle changing world, what was 'good' yesterday becomes 'bad' today, there is an interesting article: Gay Marriage: the fastest orthodoxy ever? Society changes and has always changed, there is something about 'prevailing orthodoxies', coercion through fear and perceived public opinion. A German I knew, now dead, said, "before the First World War we were all convinced Monarchist/Imperialists, during the War we were convinced  Militarists, after the War we were depressed, then we became convinced Communists, then Nationalists, then Fascists, we knew Hitler was our saviour, then in East Germany we were absolutely convinced Soviet Communists, we were proud to be workers, then all of a sudden we became Capitalists". At each stage this man was strongly convinced by each ideology that was in power, without demur put in the uniform or waived the flag of whoever was in power, persecuted whoever was supposed to be persecuted,
It is human nature - at least fallen human nature. It is a Christian duty to question these new 'orthodoxies' both within and outside the Church, we do so from the certain knowledge that Christ, not Satan, has triumphed.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...